OC Bus, Tram Ridership Rallies

OCEAN CITY – An end-of-season review of the town’s bus and tram systems this week revealed an influx of bus riders during the weekend of Sunfest and a notable increase in tram ridership throughout the summer.

In an Ocean City Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday, Transit Manager Mark Rickards presented resort officials with a summary of bus and tram ridership activity throughout the season.

“I’d like to say it was a very successful summer,” he said, “although the bus ridership overall was down a little less than 4 percent for the year so far.”

Rickards pointed out that weather played a role in bus and tram ridership this year.

“Weather had a big effect…,” he said. “If we had good weather every day, I think ridership would be up across the board.”

Rickards noted the Fourth of July holiday topped the resort’s list of best days for bus ridership this year – with 27,507 riders – but was closely followed by the Saturday of Sunfest.

“It was no surprise what our No. 1 bus ridership day was July 4th …,” he said. “But our second-best day actually came at the end of the season on Sunfest Saturday. It was just a few hundred less than what we had on the Fourth of July.”

While he noted that bus ridership was up throughout the month of August – which he attributed to nice weather – Rickards said most of the town’s top ridership days occurred during the month of June.

“That’s either related to the high school graduates that are here or the air show …,” he said. “You know how important that is to our transit system.”

Rickards noted, however, a different trend in tram ridership.

“Our best day for bus (ridership) was July 4th,” he said. “Well, July 4th was ranked No. 15 for trams. Our best day for trams was Sunfest Saturday. That was a very big day for us.”

Rickards added that overall tram ridership was strongest during the month of August, during which 17 days reported more than 5,000 riders.

“We have the families here using the Boardwalk and trams do very well,” he said.

And unlike bus ridership, Rickards said tram ridership had increased 5 percent from last year.

“We actually had the best year since 2015 for ridership,” he said. “As far as revenue, since fares have been raised, we’ve had the best year since in revenue since 2001. So we really did well this year and we hope to do better next year.”

Despite the town’s concerns regarding the impacts of ride-sharing companies on public transportation, Mayor Rick Meehan said the end-of-season summary pointed out that families continue to ride the buses and trams.

“Maybe we need to promote family ridership in our advertising,” he said.

Meehan added that the summary highlighted the importance of improving the tram system with new coaches and towing units.

“We’ll have less down time and will be more prepared to have maximum operation,” he said. “I think it’s good we are making that investment because we’ve seen that when we can’t have all of our trams out there, ridership and revenue decline.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.